Medicaid expansion

Robert F. Bukaty / Associated Press

The ballot campaign to expand Medicaid is over. But making sure roughly 70,000 low-income Mainers actually receive that health coverage? Far from it.

Maine's governor and the Legislature - actually legislatures - have battled for years over expanding Medicaid under the Affordable Care Act. Next week Maine voters can get into the act. Referendum Question 2 would approve the Medicaid expansion. Maine Public’s State House Bureau Chief Steve Mistler has written a story for Maine about the history of Medicaid expansion and talks about it with Morning Edition host Irwin Gratz.

Patty Wight / Maine Public

Next month, voters will decide whether the state should expand Medicaid. At stake is health coverage for an estimated 70,000 Mainers as well as financial stability for hospitals.

The Maine Medical Association and the Maine Primary Care Association are urging voters to support a ballot initiative on next month’s statewide ballot to expand Medicaid.

Their announcement at a press conference in Portland Wednesday follows an endorsement earlier this month by the Maine Hospital Association. But the medical community’s support is not swaying Gov. Paul LePage, who dedicated his weekly radio address to oppose Question 2.

More than 150 small businesses that are part of the Maine Small Business Coalition are officially backing the state ballot question to expand Medicaid. 

At a press conference in Portland Tuesday, local developer Tim Soley said he supports extending health coverage to more people, for both moral and economic reasons.  

Mal Leary / Maine Public

A group of Republican lawmakers, and former GOP party chairman Rick Bennett, are questioning the wording of the citizen initiated ballot question expanding Medicaid coverage.

The group says the proposed wording talks about Medicaid as health insurance instead of what they say it is — a welfare program. They want all references to insurance out of the ballot question. 

Patty Wight / Maine Public/file

PORTLAND, Maine - A citizen initiative to expand Medicaid under the Affordable Care Act has qualified for the November 2017 ballot. 

The Secretary of State's office certified more than 66,000 signatures that were collected from October to January.

AUGUSTA, Maine - The group attempting to expand MaineCare health coverage to roughly 70,000 Mainers has submitted signatures to put the issue before voters in November.

Mainers for Health Care says it has collected more than 67,000 signatures to expand MaineCare, Maine's version of Medicaid.

Medicaid expansion has been offered under the Affordable Care Act, or Obamacare. Thirty states have expanded coverage, but Republican Gov. Paul LePage and most Republicans in the Legislature have blocked such efforts here nearly a half-dozen times.

Supporters of expanding Medicaid in Maine say they’ve collected enough signatures to put the issue before the Legislature, or the voters.

The citizen initiative has the potential to extend health insurance coverage to 70,000 Mainers. But with the future of the Affordable Care Act uncertain under a Donald Trump presidency, it’s unclear how and if Medicaid expansion could work, even if it is approved here in Maine.

Patty Wight / Maine Public

Today in Portland, a coalition of health advocates launched a citizen initiative campaign to expand access to health care. Supporters say it’s time to put the issue of Medicaid expansion directly to Maine voters, after several measures in the legislature have been vetoed by Governor Paul LePage.

Maine is one of 19 states that has opted not expanded Medicaid under the Affordable Care Act. For Kathleen Phelps of Waterville, who can’t afford health insurance it has created a coverage gap.

In a 18-17 vote, the Maine Senate has supported a measure sponsored by Republican Sen. Tom Saviello of Wilton that would provide health insurance to nearly 80,000 Mainers.

The measure would use Medicaid funds from the federal government to buy private health insurance for poor Mainers.

“Accepting the federal dollars that are already set aside, covering hardworking low-income residents will improve the health of Mainers, benefit our state economy and reduce cancer risk,” he says.

State lawmakers have launched yet another attempt to expand Medicaid health care benefits to 70,000 Mainers, including hundreds who are struggling with opioid drug addiction.

Republican Sen. Tom Saviello says his plan will rely on $6 million in state money that would draw down $420 million in federal matching funds.

Saviello says his plan to expand Medicaid coverage has a backstory.

“Without getting into the details, I have been touched deeply by the loss of an individual who was addicted, that’s my passion in this,” Saviello says.

AUGUSTA, Maine - In his weekly radio address, Gov. Paul LePage blasts two fellow Republican lawmakers for proposing an expansion of Medicaid. He says should the bill pass, he will veto it.

"We have vetoed Medicaid expansion five times," he says, "and we will veto it every time electioneering politicians try to bring it up."

LePage says Medicaid expansion has not worked in other states. He says those states that have expanded are now facing cost overruns in the millions of dollars. He calls proposals to expand Medicaid to those needing drug treatment election year politics.

AUGUSTA, Maine - The Maine Senate has rejected the latest effort to expand Medicaid coverage to roughly 70,000 more Mainers.

The Republican-controlled voted 18-17 against the bill on Tuesday. The bill will now likely die.

Republican Gov. Paul LePage has consistently vetoed Medicaid expansion proposals that lawmakers have sent to his desk. He and Republican lawmakers say it would be too costly and that Maine needs to ensure that most needs of the elderly and disabled are first.

AUGUSTA, Maine -  After more than an hour of debate, the House voted to expand Medicaid coverage in Maine to an estimated 70,000 poor residents and generate millions in federal funds for health care providers. Westbrook Democrat Drew Gattine argued for expansion of coverage.

"That includes 3,000 veterans, about 1,000 of their family members," Gattine said. "Most of the people impacted work in industries without broad based, employer-based coverage, such as agriculture, fishing, food service, child care and retail sales."